Hybrid aggression and civil resistance in Kharkiv in 2014: lessons from the first phase of the Russia-Ukraine war


The objective of the article was to reveal certain patterns of the initial phase of the hybrid war based on the example of events in Kharkiv in the spring of 2014, when the aggressor tried to take control of Slobozhanshchina using tactics of mass disorders, the activation of the “fifth column” sleeper cells, smuggling of the “political tourists” across the state border to generate more chaos and eventually, aiming to seize power by non-violent methods. In terms of “the deficit of the state” almost all security burden fell on the patriotic civilian sector, the pro-Ukrainian activists.

There was a hypothesis about the existence of the plan “A”, according to which Russian Federation was planning to start the occupation of Ukraine in Kharkiv (events of February 20–24, 2014), and when the Kharkiv option failed, Russia began annexing Crimea. Events in Kharkiv are reviewed in chronological order, which is a reflection of the operational plans of the Russian General Staff to capture the South and East of Ukraine. The first wave of attacks started on March 1, the second – April 6–8, etc. The tactics of controlled chaos that was chosen for the hybrid war by Russian strategists had not worked at full strength in Kharkiv as the anti-Ukrainian uprising did not gain momentum, 95–97% of adult population chose not participate in political rallies, Russian thugs-for-hire in the streets were outnumbered by the pro-Ukrainian activists, and the city’s business rhythm was not interrupted. The turning point came after the intervention of the young generation, particularly soccer “fans” who supported united Ukraine. In May – June there were the last few rallies of “Russian world” representatives, and then “The Russian Spring” campaign came to a screeching halt.

Kharkiv remained a Ukrainian city, which largely is the achievement of civil society actively formed at the times of political crisis and war. Clearly, it is time to initiate amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine, which would have legitimized the right of citizens to resist during external aggression, including the use of weapons.

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